BOSNIA

A SHORT HISTORY

A useful and brief, but comprehensive, history of Bosnia from earliest times to the brutal present. Until its virtual dismemberment in the past three years, Bosnia was a unique political and cultural crossroads, a product of four great empires (from Rome through Austro-Hungary) and four major faiths. Some pundits suggest that this last situation is the one that has caused the small country so much grief, but in his tracing of Bosnia's history, Malcolm, a political columnist for the Daily Telegraph, thinks otherwise. He says that the lesson of history is ``not that Bosnia had to be kept in check by a larger power to prevent it from destroying itself from within, but...what had always endangered Bosnia was...the ambitions of larger powers and neighboring states.'' Although the truth of this statement applied to the familiar recent history is transparent, most readers will be less well acquainted with the events that led to Bosnia's current state. The book traces this history, full of upheavals and a swirling mix of ethnic and political tensions, methodically if a bit drily. Throughout, Malcolm makes the point that almost everything that occurs in Bosnian history gets interpreted to suit somebody's nationalist schema; to his credit, he is extremely careful in balancing claims and interpretations for the period leading up to this century. When the more familiar events of the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, and the break-up of Yugoslavia in its aftermath, are reached, he is no less candid in expressing his own point of view, sympathetic to Bosnia, outraged at the manipulations of Milosevic, Karadzic, and the gangsterlike apostles of Greater Serbia and the criminal stupidity with which the EC and the US have handled the situation. A very serviceable introduction to a complicated history.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-8147-5520-8

Page Count: 340

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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